It’s that time of year. When the days become longer and the late afternoons so muggy you can barely draw a breath, it’s marathon training time. Time to begin the early morning runs, time to cut out the sugar, time for weekend long runs. It’s a love/hate relationship.
This morning was my first real long run. I met my running buddy and we set our sights on 10 miles as the sun was just coming up and streaking the sky pink and purple and the air was still cool from the night. Long runs are mental. Your legs will do what your mind tells them to do and so the value of the long run is to teach your body not to stop when it fatigues, and then hurts. Like mine did at mile 8. As I pushed through the overarching desire to walk the rest of the way, I played mind games to keep myself moving forward and found all manner of metaphors in the long run that describe life. While none of these are great theological treasures, it made me forget about my left knee and before I knew it I was rounding the corner and finished….running not walking…so enjoy these tidbits….
Running close to the edge is terrifying. When I long run with Leah, we run Hwy 441. We run against traffic of course, and while this is safer, it can be terrifying at times. This morning, as we climbed hill number 3 we stayed on the side, running close to the edge, but far enough from the white line that we stayed out of the path of early morning semi trucks. It made me think about how close I like to cut my walk. Right up next to the edge. It feels like a wide open space of the highway, but in reality walking close to the edge is as dangerous as the center line. In a moment, the passing car will remind me of the danger that can wipe me out. I’m feeling strong and confident but I’m no match for a 18 wheeler with tons of cargo. So I ease back over into the tall grass. I let my steps fall on the gravel side road where the asphalt crumbles and I know that I am safer here. And may I add that when I stay on the side, next to the tall grass, I can tell The Mister that technically I did not run the highway. I wasn’t ON the highway I was NEXT to the highway…..but that’s another metaphor for another day…..
Long runs are not meant to be run alone. There is something about knowing that someone else is feeling the same type of pain you are. Someone else is enjoying the beautiful sunrise. Someone else hates hill #4 as much as you. Mostly, it’s knowing that you can’t stop at mile 8, because she is ahead of you and waiting on you. Friends, the true one, the ones that help you finish mile 9, are treasures. They “get it” and when you feel like quitting, they don’t fuss, or nag, but they don’t let you stop running either….
Sometimes you have to talk sternly to yourself. When I decided that my knee was feeling wonky at mile 8 I decided to walk up hill #1,234. (Just kidding it actually 5). I saw Leah round the corner and remember her saying before we started,” It’s all mental”. So I said, “Self, you need to start running. You can do this. You are stronger than you think.” That with a prayer, got me up and running again. Sometimes, you have to just get stern with yourself. OK, that’s enough whining. Get on with it. Get moving. Because if I quit every time I wanted to, I would be as productive as the empty water bottle in the tall grass I am running past now, at mile 9. I’m tired, but I’m running in this thing called life. There is a Greater Power inside of me. I draw from that when my left knee aches. I draw from strength that is not my own, but sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not going to stop.
The hardest runs are followed by rest days. Tomorrow, I will rest. No need for a short 3 miler. No need to talk myself into lacing up my shoes. I will rest and soak up an afternoon nap after I have my fill of worship. If you don’t embrace the season of rest, you will get injured. I’ve been injured. I’ve been on the side lines and worked my way back. It’s hard. I am learning to embrace a season of rest. It restorative and necessary to make you strong.
……..And so it is with life……